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Sydney Hobart: On the Christmas list

Published on December 20th, 2017

While sailors in the Northern Hemisphere are deep in winter, our friends to the south are gearing up for a summer Christmas and the Sydney Hobart Race. Alby Pratt of North Sails Australia previews this offshore classic.

Why should the race be on every offshore sailor’s Christmas list?
There is a lot of history behind the race. This is the 73rd year; long enough to become a stalwart of offshore races. It is always a tough race-you know that you will get a range of conditions while you are out there.

You are also pretty much guaranteed to be going upwind in heavy air at some point during the race; 30 knots plus for a period of time. And the smaller boats will likely see two weather transitions during the race so they will have to deal with two frontal systems, which makes it that much harder.

When you do complete it, to have come through all that and arrive in Hobart the feeling of achievement is so much sweeter!

What is the race atmosphere like on the ground in the build up?
The race is a buzz around the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia with everyone getting ready and final preparations going on, but it is Christmas in a major city and the activity is more localized at the Sydney waterfront. That said, because it is Christmas, there is an awesome feeling of anticipation and fun; it is one of the things that makes it such a special event.

There are quite a few boats from overseas competing this year, so there is a nice international feel to the whole event. When the race gets to Hobart it is crazy, as it takes over the whole city. There is no one who doesn’t know about it.

Everyone has a boat they are rooting for, a friend competing, stories from their own experiences or they just get caught up in the arrivals and the achievements of each of the boats as they make it across the Tasman Sea. It’s a really cool arrival city and one that every sailor should have on their bucket list.

Any insights yet on conditions this year?
We start monitoring the weather pretty much from 10 days out and look at how that is going to play into our sail inventory. We are always looking to take sails off to lighten the boat, but you get such a broad mix of conditions in this race that you end up using every sail you have. All teams monitor in the final prep day and start fine tuning their inventory.

GO USA: H.L. DeVore who will be the navigator on Warrior Won, likes what he sees amid the Provisional Division listings (click here) now posted for the 2017 Sydney Hobart Race. “It’s one of those days where everything just seems to be falling into place. Every IRC Division has an American boat and the placements are not disadvantageous in any way.”

OATS UPDATE: After getting struck by lightning last weekend, the Reichel/Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI has passed a sailing test in stormy Sydney and is being boosted by replacement equipment from a rival and overseas. The boat is expected to be right and ready to go for the Boxing Day start of the Sydney-Hobart.

The race starts on Boxing Day at 1300hrs AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.

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